Examination of Witnesses (Questions 410
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
HOUGHTON, CBE AND
410. Welcome, gentlemen. Thanks for coming.
I must say to all the members of the public who have stumbled
upon this meeting that I am afraid we shall be going into private
session fairly swiftly, after maybe 20 minutes, at which stage
I am sorry, you will be asked to leave. This is only the fifth
occasion I can recall in 20 years that we have had an almost completely
private session; it is not a regular occurrence. The MOD is not
mentioned at all in the Civil Contingencies Secretariat's consultation
document Emergency Planning in England and Wales, which was published
last August. Apparently, although the MOD was not mentioned, which
surprises me, it was consulted before its publication. Did the
MOD ask that the armed forces' role be included or excluded?
(Mr Bowen) Mr Davenport led on this and
was involved in the process in the summer.
(Mr Davenport) The answer to that question is that
we saw this consultation document in draft and were content that
it did not make any mention of the MOD. The reason for that was
that the consultation exercise was aimed principally at local
authorities, to seek their views on their greater involvement
in the emergency planning process rather than being aimed at the
MOD or any other organ of central government.
411. It does seem rather strange as the Ministry
of Defence and military personnel are often called upon. The omission
of the Ministry of Defence looks like an oversight; it just looks
so absurd to say nothing whatsoever about the Ministry of Defence.
Is this a justification after the event or is this the explanation?
(Mr Davenport) No, that is the explanation. We were
consulted in advance and were content with that. It certainly
was not an oversight. That is not to say that we are not going
to be involved in considering the results of the consultation
exercise at national level and we fully expect to be so.
(Mr Bowen) It may be worth saying that the thrust
of the consultation document was about whether a statutory duty
should be laid upon local authorities and whether there should
be funding to enable them to fulfill those duties. That seemed
to me to be the thrust of the consultation document, not the Ministry
of Defence and its involvement in emergency planning.
412. I understand that seven government departments
replied to this consultation document. Was the Ministry of Defence
one of them?
(Mr Davenport) No, because we were content with the
document in the first place before it was published. We will be
involved with other departments in considering the results of
413. I have to accept that explanation until
a better one comes along. This is taking bureaucracy just a little
too far to leave the Ministry of Defence out. It was not that
the Ministry of Defence did not want to go up front and indicate
that they were there then the local authorities would have an
easier route of calling military personnel. Are you saying it
is not that? You just wanted to be left out; leave us alone.
(Mr Davenport) It is not that we wanted to be left
out, it is that we certainly did not want to detract from the
main targets and direction of this exercise, which was focused
primarily on local authorities in an effort to get them more actively
involved in emergency planning and that does seem to have been
a very positive result of the consultation exercise. It may well
be that it will be for consideration whether the Ministry of Defence
might in some way be part of this statutory relationship between
local and national authorities; that is something we shall consider
with all the departments as part of following up the consultation
414. I am pleased that you will not be left
out of our report, in fact you figure very prominently in it.
Is the Civil Contingencies Secretariat's work on emergency planning
taking full account of the MOD's work on the New Chapter and vice
(Mr Mann) Yes. For clarity, I am taking forward the
work on the New Chapter. The straight answer to your question
is yes, it is in two senses. First of all, they are doing work
on vulnerabilities and resilience and so on, as I think has been
explained to you, and we are taking the results of that work and
looking at what we might do to enhance our arrangements. Secondly,
we believe we have some areas where we can contribute to their
work some particular skills, which we have suggested to them.
415. Do you have any idea when we shall be able
to see the New Chapter? If you do not, nobody will. I have heard
conflicting alternative dates. Can you give us the definitive
(Mr Mann) The definitive date is the one the Defence
Secretary announced, which was the spring or early summer. I do
not think he has crystallised it beyond that; certainly I have
416. Do you put money on early summer rather
than spring? You are writing it, are you not?
(Mr Mann) I am not a betting man, Chairman.
417. I shall put my money on the later date
rather than the earlier one. What sort of meetings would you have
had to explain to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat what you
will be doing? Have there been regular meetings?
(Mr Mann) A range of meetings from the Head of the
Secretariat downwards, depending on the topics to be covered.
For example some which were about resilience issues. If we can
invert that, our resilience base is perhaps a terrorist's tempting
target and we need to be aware of that.
418. Can you explain what the resilience issue
means and a bit about it if possible?
(Mr Mann) Certainly. A resilience issue is if we were
to lose this facility, what kind of an impact would it have on
our life, our lifestyle, the economy and so on. Clearly if we
have identified that, there is a possibility that others have
identified that. If you invert, the other side of the coin is
something we and others need to worry about. That is one strand.
A second strand is pan-governmental co-ordination. Clearly we
are one part of that. The Ministry of Defence has to fit within
whatever structures are put in place for the co-ordination of
the response to an incident. We need to be part of that. We need
to know the way in which their thinking is moving so that we can
be part of that. We can make sure that we fit comfortably.
419. I am still suffering after the answers
to the first questions when the MOD did not really get involved
in the planning. Could I ask about the Emergency Planning College?
Did the MOD or armed forces take advantage of that at all? If
by some miracle they did, how many personnel attend the courses,
how frequently and on what subjects? Is MOD involved in the running
of the courses and the content of the programmes?
(Mr Davenport) Yes, we are much involved and have
been for some time and, if I may say so, not by a miracle but
by deliberate planning. In particular they run a regular six-month
course on civil/military co-operation which we both provide lecturers
for and students for and that is our main connection with them.
That arrangement has been in place for some time.